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The Sammy Fund

About Sammy ....

 Samantha Otte was just 10 years old when she died following a liver transplant necessitated by Cystic Fibrosis.  She was our only little girl, and we will forever carry our love for her in our hearts. She left behind her older brother, Christopher, parents, June and Chuck, and many loving family members and friends.

In most ways Sammy was a typical little girl, in spite of numerous health problems.  She had a joyful, irrepressible spirit, and a delightfully zany sense of humor.   Sam loved to swim, ride her purple bike, roller skate, listen to the latest boy band music with her friends, and play the harp. 

Sammy in 3rd Grade
Sammy in 3rd Grade

She loved hanging out with her friends and family, camping with her Girl Scout troop, traveling with her family, collecting Beanie Babies and just about everything Disney, especially Winnie the Pooh & pals.   Sam had a wonderful “can-do attitude,” and a smile that could melt your heart.

Sammy and Lightning
Sammy and Lightning

Sammy was totally infatuated with all dogs, especially Dachshunds and Chihuahuas.  She could do a perfect “Yo Quiero, Taco Bell!” imitation.   She was especially devoted to her own lovable mutt, Lightning, and kitty cat, Stripes.   Sam had a tender heart, and disliked seeing any of God’s creatures suffer.   Like many children, Sammy dreamed of all the things she'd do as an adult, and repeatedly said she wanted to be "the best veterinarian/artist/actress ever."    

She didn’t  pick just one job to have when she grew up, because she wanted to do them all!

Sam was a very animated and energetic little girl and was thrilled when she earned a part as a swamp monster in a local community theater children's production, vowing to be "the best swamp monster ever!"  She loved being on stage or just hamming it up for an audience, though signing autographs was definitely her favorite part of the acting gig.

Sammy as a swamp monster
Sammy as a swamp monster
Chris and Sammy
Chris and Sammy

Sammy enjoyed a close and strong relationship with her brother Chris, whom she loved to tease and give "buddy-bear hugs."   Only 2 years apart, they shared so many wonderful times and had a healthy typical sibling relationship.  For instance, sometimes Sam would tattle on Chris for some alleged wrong, but then turn around and immediately stick up for him if he received a scolding or redirection from us!  They were the best of friends and fiercely loyal to each other.

Samantha was almost 3 years old when she was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis.  She had always suffered from frequent stomach aches and respiratory ailments, but was holding her own until she also developed liver cirrhosis.  Only 5% of all CF children develop the liver disease also, and Sam’s health began to fade.  In order to survive, she needed a liver transplant.  But organs are very hard to come by.    

She waited on the transplant list for 21 long months.  Every night she prayed for the person who would give her a new chance at life, and for their family, so that God may help them go on.  All the while her health was slipping away.  In 1999 she was hospitalized 3 times with life-threatening complications of liver failure.  

When it became evident Sam could wait no longer for a new liver, her brave uncle, Tony Campbell, volunteered to go through testing and become her donor.  He was a perfect match.  In Tony's understated and humble way, he simply said, “It has to be done.  I'm a match, so let's do it."   He sacrificed so much to give Sam a fighting chance to be healthier, and he’s a true hero to us.  We are forever grateful to Tony for giving Sam the only chance she had.  

Sammy and Uncle Tony, the night before surgery
Sammy and Uncle Tony, the night before surgery

In October of 1998, after being placed on the transplant list, friends and family staged a huge 2-day benefit to help pay for Sam's medical expenses. The weekend was filled with laughter, love, and great hope for Sammy's better health as hundreds of people opened their hearts (and wallets) to help Sam.

Sammy and friends at benefit
Sammy and friends at benefit

   At the time, Sam had more bad days than good, and we weren't sure how she'd handle all the attention.  To be sure, Sam loved attention, but NOT attention for her disease; she definitely did not want to be known as "the little girl with CF."  She was a dynamo with a blond ponytail and had so much attitude, most people never suspected that she was battling for her life.  

When the benefit was over, an exhausted 8-year-old Sam said it was the best weekend of her ENTIRE life and "could we PLEEEEAASE do it all over again next weekend?"  She had spent the whole weekend hugging people and soaking up the love, and we will always be grateful for all the generous love and support given to our family.  Sammy knew she was cherished!

The actual transplant was a success, Samantha's doctors said, but for reasons we'll never understand Sam did not regain consciousness and died 3 days later of a brain hemorrhage.   Our sweet little Sammy was gone. 

In many ways Samantha was very lucky, for she knew she was loved and cherished.   In only 10 years, Sam was surrounded by more love, generosity, and support than most people experience in a full lifetime.  We are forever grateful to all those who loved Sammy in her life and help us honor her memory now.  

 Sam had especially enjoyed her Girl Scout activities and camping with her troop friends.  She loved selling Girl Scout cookies and helped her mom deliver 134 boxes of cookies just 2 weeks before she died.  Every order had Sam’s hand-written thank-you note posted on it.   

On the day Sam died, one of her aunts said our spunky little Sam was now an “angel with an attitude.”  Of course, Sam’s Girl Scout friends were heartbroken.   

Sammy with fellow Girl Scouts
Sammy with fellow Girl Scouts

But these brave young ladies turned their grief into a positive life force and worked relentlessly to spread the word about the tremendous need for more organ donors. Their troop became known as the “Angels with Attitudes” and worked hard to make sense of their friend’s passing.   

These girls, along with Troop Leaders Debbie Valvo and Teresa Reichert, spread the word on organ donation and signed up many new donors.   There’s no doubt some lives will be saved because of their efforts.  We are so proud of them, and we KNOW Samantha is smiling down on them.

 Sam was in the 4th grade at St. Anthony School at the time of her death.  This wonderful little school supported and nourished Sam through many ups and down.  It was a loving haven for both Chris and Sam, and we’re grateful for this blessing in their lives.

Sammy's drawing to Tony
Sammy's drawing to Tony
Samantha was a very creative little artist and left behind hundreds of drawings, paintings, and other artwork.  We need only mention once to Sam that we needed some new refrigerator art and she'd prolifically produce dozens of masterpieces, all signed:  "With love, from Sam" and covered with hearts.  It was her trademark.  

For Sam, Jesus was an important part of her life.  She knew Him and He was actively present in her young life.  Not a single day would go by without Sam giving grateful thanks to God for “all the blessings in my life.”  It is now our deep comfort to know she suffers no longer and is enjoying a glorious new life with Him.  This prayer, written by Sam about 6 months before her death, is now etched on her tombstone:

 

Sammy's prayer

If our lives are judged on how much we love and are loved, in just 10 precious years Sammy had a life well-lived. Sammy’s sudden death in March of 2000 left many friends and family members with a desire to honor her exceptional spirit.  

As we reflect on Samantha’s life, we struggle to focus on the wonderful gift from God which she was.  In Samantha’s last conversation with her mother, she said she KNEW everyone loved her, including Jesus, and that she’d see us again.  We try now to focus not on our broken hearts, but on all the blessings given to Samantha, on all the blessings she gave to us, and on the many ways her life goes on making a positive difference for others.  Through the The Sammy Fund, Samantha’s smiles continue to shine on the faces of many children.  Thank you for this wonderful blessing and comfort!

With love and gratitude,

June, Chuck & Chris Otte

 

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The Sammy Fund, P.O. Box 3622, Quincy, IL 62305   Voice Mail ( 217)-242-1527

 

(All donations to the Samantha Otte Youth Opportunity Fund are subject to the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws of the  Community Foundation all of which provisions are hereby incorporated by reference).